Running vs. Lifting

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I haven’t always been into fitness and exercise. I didn’t play any sports in high school. It actually was a gradual process, but I started just like everyone else with high hopes and good intentions. I started messing around at the apartment complex fitness center and kicking around a soccer ball on a field at the park. Eventually, I bought a workout DVD and did my best to follow it. That was about 2013 and I’ve been consistently following different exercise plans since then. These last anywhere from a few months to a year. I find that changing up plans challenges my body to work harder and to adapt. This also keeps things interesting for me mentally. It’s always exciting following along and learning a new program and overcoming its obstacles. Recently, I trained for my first half marathon which I ran in March. I have really gotten into running since the training for the marathon, and I find I enjoy it almost as much as lifting.

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I have begun a new program about a week ago to try and compete in my first triathlon. Triathlons involve distance swimming, cycling, and running. My training for the marathon is more closely related to the training for the triathlon than all my previous years of weight training, so it’s an easy transition. During my marathon training, I continued heavy weightlifting because I enjoyed it and didn’t find it affected my runs. It looks like now my weight training will have to change significantly as I prepare for the triathlon. I will mostly be doing circuits with multiple body parts and exercises rather than a focused bodybuilding style. My exercises will also be specifically chosen to focus on improving my performance in the triathlon. I am analyzing and comparing running and lifting for further insight as to why I enjoy them and what differences I notice for myself between the two. This could serve as a personal look in for others wanting to jump into fitness or chose one of these disciplines.

 

Weightlifting

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I have gone through numerous weight training types with various goals and focus. I have dropped weight, gained muscle, increased my strength, and rehabilitated myself from injuries. These various programs grew my love of fitness and got me to where I am physically today. I personally like the bodybuilding/hypertrophy programs. These are the high volume weight training sessions that concentrate on one muscle group or multiple muscles used in similar effort styles.

These splits would be something like chest today, back tomorrow or push today, pull tomorrow. When lifting I usually have some sort of pre-workout mix or fast digesting carbs to get myself going. These workouts usually last about an hour and involve somewhere around six different exercises. I regularly perform three sets of ten repetitions per exercise with rest between sets. Usually, I feel positive and alert during these sessions. I am listening to my music and focused on the task at hand. There can be lows though. I know I get frustrated when I can’t hit a lift or I feel fatigued. Once a certain muscle or group becomes exhausted, the last few reps become difficult or require extended rest to complete then it really becomes a mental challenge. Of course some days I find myself overly tired and the entire session is difficult, but that usually means I needed more rest. Once I’ve completed the workout though, I am left feeling positive about myself and the rest of my day. It feels good knowing I got my work out in and completed it.

These workouts usually burn enough calories for me to have a little leeway eating during the day. In a hard hour lifting session, I usually burn around 400-500 calories based on my Fitbit. The workout usually gives me an energy boost for the first few hours afterward. Sometimes later in the day, I will notice I am a little tired, but coffee or some extra carbs can fix that. Depending on the workout, I may notice the delayed onset muscle soreness the same day, but usually, I’m sore on the next day or two. In a bodybuilding workout plan, this is not an issue, as I can just work out another muscle group the next day and so on. While following these programs, I take one or two days off to rest.

Running

For the marathon, I drastically increased my running. I went from not running very often, as in a couple of times a month, to running three times a week. I had to get my body used to the running by doing it more frequently, and then work on my cardio fitness and going for long distances. I got into a pretty good rhythm and my half marathon was a success. I have decreased these runs to once or twice a week as part of the triathlon training that I’ve recently begun. Part of the initial training includes trying to drop some weight and body fat to improve my racing weight.

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Similar to my marathon training, on Sundays or once a week I run a long distance at a fairly easy pace. These runs are at least an hour and serve a dual purpose of keeping up my cardio and helping to burn some body fat. Since the triathlon is an endurance event, I need to get used to exercising for long periods of time. Starting out on these hour runs, I am averaging about 7-8 miles. One big difference with these runs is that I am running in a fasted state. This is to help cut body fat by using it for fuel during the run. I cut my eating an hour or two before bed the night before and then don’t eat again until the run is complete. I’ve found that this makes the run fairly challenging. I feel like I am putting a lot more effort into keeping myself going for the entire hour than when I eat or have some sort of caffeine. I feel depleted especially towards the end of the run. I do enjoy the duration of the exercise though and the added challenge.

Just like during my lifting sessions I get to listen to music to keep me motivated and running. The combination of my music and the effects of running for miles at a time gives my mind time to wander. I find myself working things out in my head, finding a sort of clarity, as I keep my body pumping forward. Since I am running 8 miles out, I travel to some places I don’t usually see. This is another bonus as it keeps me entertained with new sights and eagerness to see more. When I complete a run and especially these longer distances, I feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. It usually puts me in a good mood for the rest of the day.

Running burns a lot of calories, somewhere between 800-900 according to my Fitbit. Therefore after these hour run days, I can usually eat pretty much whatever I want. This is a good feeling too and serves as kind of a reward for getting my run in. I usually feel pretty fatigued after these long runs and almost certainly will need a coffee if not a nap later in the day. I usually don’t experience muscle soreness until the next day if any at all. While on this triathlon training plan I run sprints or bike/run combos during the week and my long run on the weekend. I take one day off a week to rest and switch to a swim or light weight training on non-run days.

I enjoy both running and lifting. It seems like my preference towards one or the other comes in waves or maybe I just get bored from doing one consistently for too long. Right now I am really into running and the freshness that it still presents for me. I like being able to just go and not have to worry about anything else besides me running. If I didn’t enjoy the endurance challenge of the long runs, I wouldn’t be inspired to start training for the triathlon. I like the way that a heavy weightlifting session leaves me feeling afterward. I like the excitement of lifting heavier weights and seeing my progression. It will be a fresh experience and challenging once again when I return to lifting in the future. I think the balance of both keeps both fun and keeps me feeling better physically overall.

This transition will be a great learning experience. I am interested to see how my body reacts to the switch from weights to cardio and excited for new challenges. I will be a little sad to back off from weight training, but there will still be some in my program to supplement my biking, running and swimming. I anticipate this change will stimulate the weight loss I am desiring, although some will likely be muscle. I also have a feeling that this major change will set me up to be able to do something new and completely different from endurance and weight training once I am finished. The excitement of trying new programs and types of exercise keep me coming back for more. I highly recommend changing it up like this sooner than later to prevent burnout and increase progress.

 

One comment

  1. I agree with you; variety is key. I’ve stopped running though all together due to lower back pain and right knee issues. These days I just lift weights, use the stair master at the gym, rollerblade or bike. I think the most important part of this journey called life is just staying active doing something always. Treating your body like your most prized possession. I hope to experience many things in life as long as I can keep this body operational.

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